April, 2009

4/22/09: Wolff @ Pianos (90/100)

April 23rd, 2009

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I haven’t made it this far to give up so easily, just eking out the last few shows. I said I wanted to make them count. To see whatever the best show is on that night, every night until the end. But man, it’s not always that easy. Like Tuesday night when I got back from Bristol, CT and just picked a band playing a late show at Cake Shop. Or like tonight, where I did the same thing, but at Pianos. And just like last night, I was pleasantly surprised. But it wasn’t an easy road getting there.

I was supposed to see Starfucker @ Union Hall, but I had to work late enough that I didn’t think I’d make it there in time. I even paid my subway fare, sat and waited for the R train, but then bailed worried that if I missed it, then I wouldn’t make it back to Manhattan in time to see anything on the LES. So I left headed toward the LES.

Got to Ludlow, bought some dinner, tried to use my ATM card, but nothing. Card was declined. Not for lack of funds, but “No account.” Huh? That’s weird. Must be their machine, I thought. I get to Pianos expecting the band Wolff to be on. They were scheduled for 10, but things never run on time. Nope. They were going on at 11p instead, the band before them went on at 9p and were just finishing up. Damnit. Ok, so maybe I’ll go to Mercury Lounge and try and catch something.

I get there, don’t feel like paying $10 for some bands I have no idea about, especially when there’s hardly anyone there. Damnit, back to Cake Shop. Some weird showcase going on. Not into it. Let me get money, at least I can go into Pianos and grab a beer while I wait for Wolff. I try the ATM outside Pianos. Nope, declined. I try the other ATM a few feet away. Nope, declined. I try another ATM across the street. It’s out of order. Then another ATM outside Cake Shop. Nope, declined.

What the fuuuuuuuuuck?!?!?

I call my bank. Can’t get through, keep getting cut off. At this point I’m thinking this is karma reigning down on me for not making it out to Union Hall since I was on the guest list, and it’s the last 10 days of the project and here I am, picking a band pretty much at random. Then I remember, that’s not it at all. It occurs to me that I received a replacement ATM card from my bank that I hadn’t activated yet. Oops.

So I grab some cash, take a couple deep breaths, and then head into Pianos about 15 minutes early for the Wolff show. There’s a total of four people in the music room while they finish setting up. When they start playing, 10 minutes earlier than their set time, I’m one of three people in the room. Then I think those people leave at some point and I might be the only on in the room.

That doesn’t last long as people continue to file in and out of the room throughout the night. Intrigued I assume by a guy with a tuba, and a guy on drums, and Planet Earth visuals being projected onto the backdrop of the stage. Or maybe it’s because the show was free. Either way, I was glad to be there, despite the annoying bullshit that happened before.

I checked Wolff’s myspace page before leaving work, as a Plan B in case I bailed on Starfucker. It seemed like an interesting band. Brian Wolff on tuba/vocals/samples/loops/effects pedals/everything under the sun. Steve Garafano on drums. Brian’s tuba is hooked up to his effects board, so every sound you hear (save for the live drums), comes from him blowing into the tuba, and manipulating the sound in real time.

Nothing is pre-programmed, but plenty of things are layered on top of each other. He even turned the tuba into a microphone sings through it. Truly fascinating as a fan of music, and pedal/gear freak. I think Steve was playing to a metronome as well, and he was fucking automatic. Like a human drum machine.

The music itself comes out like industrial/electronica. And the visuals really help the experience, especially during “Bull Elephant,” which I thought was the highlight of the show/rehearsal. That’s what Steve kept repeating throughout the night, ‘Welcome to our show slash rehearsal.”

Whatever it was, it was a really unique, interesting, fascinating, and fulfilling experience. And probably better than the two Starfucker songs I would’ve seen had I made the trek to Brooklyn.

4/21/09: Virgin Forest @ Cake Shop (89/100)

April 21st, 2009

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Damnit, I’m tired. Really tired. I’ve been on my feet shooting TV commercials all day. Not the kind of shoot you see on Madmen(too bad) or Trust Me (thank god). It’s run and gun. Lots of back and forth, moving from one shot to the next, etc. Basically not a lot of time to relax for 10 hours. So, being up at 7am + shooting till 6pm + a 2 1/2 hour drive back to NY + doing work for a couple hours at home + a band @ Cake Shop = fucking tired. Oh right, and add in 89 straight days of live music to that, too. Luckily, I got one of these bad boys on the shoot to come home to.

Many people ask me how I decide on which band to see, if I have any specific criteria. I can’t remember what I’ve mentioned here before, but it’s pretty simple. I check the better venues (Bowery, Mercury, LPR, Music Hall) then Timeout NY, if I don’t see anything worth seeing, I check other/smaller venues (Pianos, Cake Shop, Living Room, Fontana’s). If I don’t recognize anything, I just start picking bands from these venues and check out songs on their myspace pages. This is how I’ve stumbled upon some good bands: The O’s, The Answer, The Mess Around, Blonde Acid Cult, Lights, and tonight, Virgin Forest.

I have to say, as random as this selection may seem, this was a really good band. And, it was at 11pm on a Tuesday night and there were only probably 20-25 people there, they were still better better than some more well known bands I’ve seen so far, like Annuals, Maps & Atlases and The Bird and the Bee, for example. Who were fine, I guess. It’s just that this band had something none of these bands had. Problem is, I can’t totally put my finger on it.

They didn’t put on much of a “show,” I mean the bass player and singer/guitar player sat down the whole time. The set was pretty short, and so were the songs. But it just felt good being around their music.

My initial reaction was they sounded like 70s AM radio. It was really warm, and comforting, and familiar. But not in a badly derivative way, although they did seem to be pulling from some major influences, I thought: Van Morrison, Willie Nelson. They even covered a Leonard Cohen song, and reminded me a bit of some No Depression bands I grew up with. More references escape me at the moment, but I guess the point is this: maybe they sounded so good because they sounded familiar.

Again, not in a bad way. I really, really liked it. And could’ve sat there for another half hour, at least. But instead, they wrapped things up around 11:30p.

Before the show, I was worried that this selection was sort of phoning it in, on the 89th day. But not after. I stopped up to the stage after the show and talked to the guitar player and told him of my project. He said, “I think I’ve heard about you. Or someone doing something similar.” I don’t know if there is someone else doing something similar in NY. If so, show your face, nemesis. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he meant me. I told him it was day #89, he thanked me, I gave him $5, took one of their 45s they had for sale, and jumped in a cab.

Holy shit.

Tomorrow is day 90. The last 10 days. Let the countdown begin.

4/20/09: The Hartford Jazz Orchestra @ Arch Street Tavern (88/100)

April 21st, 2009

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This show is living proof that you can find live music almost anywhere, any day of the week. I was in Connecticut for work. And since I was staying over night, that meant I needed to find a band to see. Not super easy on a Monday night when I’m staying in Farmington, CT. Lucky for me, Hartford is a short 20 minute drive. Not so lucky for me, most of the live music venues in and around Hartford aren’t booking bands on Monday nights. Shit.

So I do some more poking around and…eureka! I strike gold! Ok, not gold. But I had a couple choices: A horn recital at the University of Hartford, or the Hartford Jazz Orchestra at Arch Street Tavern.

After some major soul searching, I opted for the Hartford Jazz Orchestra. Ok, there wasn’t any soul searching at all. I just had to work up until 8pm, and would’ve missed the horn recital. Plus, the other one is at a bar/grill, so there will be food. But more on that later.

My co-workers headed off to dinner at Outback (damn Of Montreal song…it’s back in my head!) and planned on meeting me at Arch Street Tavern for music. I grabbed a cab around 8:30pm in the pouring rain, to a sports bar/grill in downtown Hartford on a Monday night, and walked into a 16-piece big band orchestra. What the what?

Right when I opened the door, I was hit in the face with four trumpets, five saxes, four trombones, drums, stand up pass and piano. Holy shit! They are serious about their big band jazz at the Arch Street Tavern, on a Monday night. Amazing.

When I got out of car, I saw a text from my friend Josh, saying that everyone’s heading back to the hotel after Outback – some peeps had work to do. Oh well. This should be a quick show anyhow. Then, just as I grab a seat, order a drink and pull out my notebook…surprise! All my coworkers walk up to the table. Good one guys, you got me.


We takeover the table and settle in to enjoy the biggest band I’ve seen yet (in numbers). Everyone’s pretty excited to have surprised me, and to be a part of day 88. And I was excited that they did. For most, it’s their first show. At the table was: Gary, Josh, Scott, Kelly, Alison, Vickie and Casey. Scott had been to shows 1 and 50, and Josh shows 50, 61 and 83.

“Welcome to my life,” I said. And then the Hartford Jazz Orchestra busted into song. Each one, great. Some big, swing numbers. Some quieter ballads. But nothing too quiet, that’s for sure. These guys were loud as hell.Well balanced from where we were sitting, but a trip to the bathroom revealed how utterly intense that band was at full blast.

But I loved it. I mean, how many times do you sit and eat a chicken quesadilla, with a baseball game on a TV in front of you, the NBA finals to your right, and the NHL playoffs behind you? With a crowd that’s primarily 70+ in downtown Hartford? Fucking classic.

But wasn’t even the best part. The band was. What a cast of characters. You had the 70-something year old conductor/piano player who just reeks of character and charisma – and probably mothballs – paired with younger guys in sleeveless vests and Red Sox hats. How the hell these guys found each other, and what they talk about apart from the music is beyond me. But good for them.

And good for me – for us – for making it out in the pouring rain, to take in what has been one of the most random, bizarre, but pleasantly surprising nights of music so far. All while Pierce hit a shot at the buzzer to knot up their series with Chicago 1-1 – that’s how they do it in Hartford.

Interview with Superglued.com

April 21st, 2009

Check it out. I met up with Lucette from Superglued.com, a really cool website that’s in private beta right now (but has a blog), but when it launches it’s going to be a hub for music fans to tell their stories, post pictures, videos, and generally share the concert experience with others who were at the same show.

Check out the video interview they did with me below (in which I don’t look very telegenic, admittedly)

And follow this link to read the whole blog entry:

100 Bands in 100 Days: How to Run a Music Marathon

100 Bands in 100 Days: How to Run a Music Marathon

4/19/09: Roz Corral Trio @ North Square Lounge (87/100)

April 19th, 2009

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I snoozed for over an hour today. I never set an alarm on Sunday, but today it was necessary. I had to get up and record my radio show, then see music, then leave for CT for work. Yes people, sorry to have to tell break it to you this way – but the radio show pre-recorded. I knocked that out, then had to run to brunch to catch a jazz band since I had to leave for Bristol at 3pm. So I hit snooze every 9 minutes for over an hour. Which always seems ridiculous once you’re awake, but makes perfect sense when you’re under the covers.

I managed to drag my ass out of bed around 10:30, grab a quick shower, record the show, then run out to North Square Lounge for the 12:30 jazz set with the Roz Corral Trio. I’ve been to North Square once before on Day 10 to see Sachal Vasandani. And I’ll repeat what I think I talked about way back then.

This may seem like cheating, but it’s not. If Roz didn’t have a website or CD for sale, it might be cheating. But she does, so it’s not. And as it turns out, she’s a lot more prompt that Sachal was. I made a reservation for one for the 12:30 set and she began literally seconds after I sat down.

Here’s a little anecdote about how my making that reservation went down:

Me: I’d like to make a reservation for the 12:30 set in the music room.
Hostess: For how many?
Me: One.
Hostess: (puzzled) One?
Me: Yes.
Hostess: Um, ok…your name?
Me: Nick.
Hostess: That’s for one?
Me: Yes.

Yes, it was plainly obvious that the hostess felt sorry for me making a reservation for one. I guess it makes sense, right? It’s not like I was walking by and decided, “I’m hungry, I’ll try this place out.” I was actually making plans to eat by myself. Like, between the time I was calling and the time I was eating, I couldn’t find one other person to enjoy the meal with me. But she didn’t know I was a man on a music mission. Screw her and her damn pity!

Like I said, Roz and her bass and piano player started the first song almost as my ass hit my chair. Which is nice. I might actually get out earlier than I imagined. I ordered a coke, which came in a tiny, tiny bottle but probably cost like 5 bucks. For food, I got the chicken club sandwich (I like the “-unch” part of Brunch) and then busted out the New York Times Sunday paper. Hey, I said I had to see at band every day, it doesn’t mean I have to stare at them for the entire hour.

Here’s what I learned:

Wait, when did this become an ad for the NYT? When it became hard to talk about the music because of my lack of jazz knowledge (mentioned many times in the blog). If I had to compare Roz to someone, I guess I’d say Ella Fitzgerald. But that might be because I don’t know many other singers like her. But I do know that the chicken club sandwich at North Square Lounge is pretty solid. You can put caramelized onions on just about anything and I’ll eat it.

Roz and her Trio played for an hour, almost to the minute, wrapped up the set, thanked the crowd and promised to return for a second set. I paid my bill, thanked my waiter and promised nothing of the sort.

4/18/09: Bear Hands w/Real Estate & The Tony Castles @ The Shank (86/100)

April 19th, 2009

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This was a day of music from beginning to end.

First, I met up with a woman named Lucette who’s helping launch a website called Superglued.com. It’s in private beta right now, but when it launches, it will be a central hub for music fans to write about their concert experiences. Seemed like a cool idea to me. She wanted to talk me about the 100 bands project and filmed a quick interview with me for the site – asking about my favorite show of the project so far, and of all time. I picked Wilco & R.E.M. in 1999 for all time. I don’t know if it is my favorite all-time show or not, but it was an amazing show/overall experience. I met Tweedy. It poured rain. They had to cancel the show due to lightning, and I walked back to the car completely soaked. It was magical. But truthfully, picking one isn’t really that possible.


After that, I remembered it was record store day – one day I make a point to buy music from a mom and pop music store. Like going to church on Christmas in hopes that you won’t go to hell (yet, knowing Hell doesn’t really exist). So I buzzed over to Other Music to see what exclusive singles they’d have on sale. Here’s what I picked up: Crystal Antlers “Tentacles”, Condo Fucks “Fuckbook” and an exclusive Record Store Day Blitzen Trapper 45, called “War is Placebo”. They also had different band members doing DJ sets all day, like guys from Grizzly Bear, the Raveonettes, and even Bill Callahan doing a live acoustic performance. I would’ve liked to see that, but already had plans to meet my friend Ben at The Shank in Brooklyn to see Bear Hands, and a bunch of other bands.

The Shank is another one of those “semi-legal” venues, like L.A.M.C. and Death by Audio. It’s out, sort in the middle of nowhere in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and from what I gather, it’s a sound stage for TV and films by day. Underground indie rock venue by night. They were selling Colt 45 tallboys out of a cooler, people were smoking freely and there were makeshift benches set up to hang out in between sets.

I rolled up around 9:45, just in time to see the first band finish their set. I was supposed to be on the guest list, but wasn’t. No big deal. I paid my $10, and had to spot Ben another $4 since he was supposed to be my plus one. (he’s a broke grad student, and former drummer in the band I played in)


Second band of the night, but first full set for me was by a band called The Tony Castles. Terrible name. Good band. I couldn’t quite figure out where they were pulling their sound from, influence-wise. It sounded like some Talking Heads, but with a falsetto voice instead. Either way, they were starting the night off pretty solid.

After them was a band called Real Estate, sort of a snoozer, with more moments of “meh” than “yeah.” It’s not all their fault. In their defense, the sound isn’t awesome at The Shank, at least not for vocals. They get strangely muffled. “It’s like we’re at an arena,” said Ben. Exactly. The guitars sounded good (behind earplugs, of course), just not the vocals.


Either realizing this, or just by some stroke of luck, Real Estate changed gears and played about a half hour of straight instrumental songs. Which weren’t half bad. And they ended on a solid pop song. Not a terrible set overall.

The Shank never got super packed, which was nice. Yet, it was still hot as hell in there. And it definitely had an “out in the middle of nowhere” vibe since it’s surrounded by a bunch of warehouses, and there’s a guy guarding the door who won’t let you stand outside the door. “You gotta walk if you’re gonna talk,” said the man. The bathroom floor/carpet was soaked in water from a busted pipe connected (or, not connected) to the sink. So, no chance of washing your hands after you do your business. Not ideal.

Ben and I knocked back a few Colt 45s throughout the night. Officially the first malt liquor I’ve had since probably college, maybe high school. And it wasn’t that bad. Better than Mickeys or O.E., that’s for damn sure.

The last and final band, Bear Hands, went on just before midnight or so. I think, but not sure. Being at The Shank is like being in the Twilight Zone. You lose all sense of time and place. The Colt 45s don’t help, either. But let’s just assume it was around midnight, since the receipt from my taxi ride home after said 1:58am.


Bear Hands were good. They didn’t blow me away. But they didn’t stink it up either. The singer played the whole set shirtless (um, ok). He even took a song into the crowd at the end. I can appreciate that. The one thing I’ll nail them on though is the whole floor tom used by the guitar player thing. Damnit. Not another band doing that. Especially since it didn’t really add much to the sound and seemed more like a prop than anything. I’m getting really tired of it. Where is it coming from? It’s one thing if you’re Animal Collective, and Panda Bear is actually a skilled percussionist. It’s another to just use a floor tom in a superfluous way.

But to each band their own, I say. Ok, I never say that. Nor should anyone else. It’s a stupid phrase that doesn’t really work. But the Shank does, if you want to drink cheap beer, see upcoming indie bands, and feel like you’re at some exclusive place in the middle of nowhere. Just remember to pack the Purell.

Week #12: What I’ve learned so far

April 18th, 2009

Life is long: My grandma died this week. Which made me feel a lot of different emotions. One, happiness. Happy that I am doing this project. Life is too short to not do shit like this, right? Wrong. Life is long. My grandma lived into her 80s. I’m in my 30s. There’s plenty of time for all of us to do something ridiculous like this project. And for me to do something like this, again. (just not right away)

It takes two to make things go right: I saw two, 2-man bands this week. And they both kicked ass. One, a relatively unknown bluegrass band named The O’s at Fontana’s, to a crowd of about 15 people. The other, Flight of the Conchords at Radio City Music Hall, to a crowd of more than 5,000. There’s no real moral of the story here. Just sayin’,  I think Rob Base was onto something.

If you think Brooklyn is too far away then Brooklyn doesn’t need you there fucking up the vibe anyhow. I have no patience for people who don’t want to go to Brooklyn because “it’s too far away.” Waaaaaaaa. People are nicer in Brooklyn. Things are often nicer in Brooklyn. So Brooklyn doesn’t need you there fucking up the vibe anyhow. Two appearances in Brooklyn in one week for me this week and I’ve written about this before, but every time I go across the river, I feel this force pulling me back to it. I haven’t been able to pull the trigger because moving sucks, and I live really close to work. But I probably should, so I can really bitch about stupid Manhattanites, without being one.

4/17/09: Great Lake Swimmers @ Bowery Ballroom (85/100)

April 18th, 2009


My grandma Katie died today.

For those who have been reading for awhile, you know that I made an emergency trip back to Minnesota one month ago (almost to the day) to see my grandmother who had fallen sick pretty quickly. We didn’t think she had long left. In fact, I didn’t think she’d even make to the weekend when I planned on heading back to Minnesota. But she was a fighter. The doctors, orderlies, hospice workers – they all said she could “go any minute.” But she didn’t. She kept fighting – and that’s just one reason I loved her. The rest I don’t need to explain. We’ve all had grandmothers.


(with my mom in the 50s, and with my nephew Gabe this year)

For the last month, I felt that any call from my mom, dad or sister that would be the one. Today that call came. I’m at ease with her passing because I know she went peacefully, and had family visiting her every day. I got to see her just a month ago, and talk to her several times since then. The last time being Saturday, when she sounded like she was getting better, even if the doctors said the opposite.

She was definitely on my mind during the whole Great Lake Swimmers show tonight. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of this show. I watched the first few songs from up front, snapped off some photos, then went and leaned against the bar to watch the rest. And text with my sister. We were texting back and forth through most of the show, talking about today, how we missed gma already, how our mom is doing, etc. I couldn’t be with them in MN, which is the shitty thing about living out here in NYC.

While I don’t remember much about the Great Lake Swimmers show, I do think they were the perfect band to see tonight. It wasn’t too crowded, they kept the lights on the stage pretty low, and their music is sufficiently mellow and melancholy to allow me to reflect on the day without really paying attention. When I was paying attention, I was sometimes surprised to look up on stage and not see Iron & Wine. Just sayin’.


I have GLS’s record Ongiara, but not the new one, Lost Channels. It doesn’t matter much though. I feel like they write one long, continuous song. Which is a good thing at times. It’s nice because you can put them on, and then zone out. Exactly what I needed tonight. I didn’t need a crazy rock show with stage diving, or moshing, or singers with drumsticks, or precious indie antics. I needed something I could ignore, so I could think about what I would’ve said if I’d had a chance to say goodbye to my grandma.

Love you gma. We will miss you forever.

4/16/09: Rhett Miller @ Le Poisson Rouge (84/100)

April 17th, 2009

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I’m tired as hell today. Sort of like the first few weeks. But this is the homestretch. Gotta finish strong. Only a little over two weeks left. And while I love the project, and will probably miss it, I do want my life back. Even if it means I’ll be just another regular person who goes to shows every so often. Wait, that can’t happen. That’s the whole point of this thing – to get out there, and make sure I continue to see more shows. Shows like Rhett Miller on a Thursday night at Le Poisson Rouge.

But before I go into that, what the fuck is up with Le Poisson Rouge lately? I like this place, but they keep giving me reasons to hate it. First there was the mandatory 20% gratuity when using a card to pay for drinks back at the Glass Candy show. Now they’re charging $30 for a Rhett Miller solo acoustic show? Really? No offense, but Rhett’s no Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy I would pay $30 for (and more). Ok, in fairness to LPR, that included the bullshit online fee – but still.

And what’s up with the big beefy security lining the edges of the stage now? Do they seriously have to rig up a velvet rope off the side of the stage? First off, is that really going to keep someone from running onto the stage and molesting the artist? And secondly, it’s just Rhett and his guitar, what’s going to happen? Half the crowd would pull a hammy if they tried.

Speaking of which, this was the most unattractive crowd of the entire 84 days. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care. But just thought I should point that out. It was old and ugly. Shit, I was there too. Damnit.

Ok, so Rhett Miller. The singer/songwriter from the Old 97’s. The alt-country band I used to love. I still do I guess, just don’t really listen to them that much anymore. I like Rhett’s solo work, but have to admit I was looking forward to hearing mostly 97’s songs. I wasn’t disappointed. And he’s funny, self-deprecating, and gives it his all. Sweating all over the place, beating the hell out of the strings of his guitar, shaking his sweaty head around, jumping up and down – and so on.

Which is nice considering he’s just a guy stand on a stage with an acoustic guitar, in a solo spotlight – could’ve been dreadfully dull. But he made sure that didn’t happen. Throughout the set he said “This is a song request from Twitter.” Which I originally took as joke since he’s a smart ass. But he kept saying it, so maybe it wasn’t a joke? He was also taking requests from the crowd, saying once: “I’ll play your song, but that doesn’t make me a whore. All the sex on the street for money, that makes me a whore.” Reminding me of the sense of humor I share with friends of mine. This guy’s alright by me.

Although, I was a bit annoyed by some of the people in the crowd tonight. A lot seemed like the types who don’t go to a lot of shows, so they were violating some standard show etiquette: don’t continually bump into me dancing and say “Sorry.” Just stop bumping into me. And don’t push me out of the way so you can take my place. That sort of thing. But to be fair, I got to shows every night, so I’m a bit hyper sensitive to this sort of thing.

Toward the end of Rhett’s set he mentioned how he recently played the R.E.M. tribute show at Carnegie Hall (yet failed to use the standard “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” joke), at which he played the song “Driver 8.” So he played it again tonight and it was great. I taught myself to play guitar in college by playing R.E.M. songs, and will hopefully one day thank Peter Buck for “teaching” me guitar. So that was a nice touch.

But it also made me realize that he hadn’t played the one song I was hoping he would: “Oppenheimer.” It was still a great show. During the encore he riffed about how LPR was at a French-named club, and then played a verse and chorus from “Question” in French. So have to give him props on that. And for making my tired old, 84th day in a row ass happy that I shelled out the $30 to see him tonight.

4/15/09: Of Montreal @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (83/100)

April 16th, 2009

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This Outback commercial ruined Of Montreal for me for a couple years, not gonna lie. I saw it as the ultimate sell out. A band I always knew as doing their own thing, giving in to a fake Australian restaurant chain. It almost made want to boycott the Blooming Onion forever – almost. Those colossal calorie kingdoms are just too good to turn my back on for an eternity. Delicious sons of bitches…

But time heals all wounds I guess, because I’m over it. So they sold out. So what. So did Bob Dylan, and Wilco, and just about every other band or musician I admire. But the artists didn’t change. They didn’t start writing songs so they could get them into commercials. In fact, in the Of Montreal’s case, quite the opposite. Their music is even more fucked up and abstract now.

So I walked into tonight’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg waving a white flag, and anxious for a the live freak show that is Of Montreal. And what a freak show it is. Last time I saw them was at Bowery several years ago. At that show, lead singer Kevin Barnes walked on stage in a full white wedding dress. My friend Lauren told me the first time she saw them he entered the stage on a white horse. So long as he didn’t walk out dressed as a Blooming Onion (a kangaroo would’ve been ok), it should be a good show.

I went to the show with my friend Josh, co-worker Olivia and her friends Dana and Bronwen. And we all waited anxiously to see what tricks Kevin and the band had up their sleeves. The crowd was get anxious themselves, chanting for the band to get this whacked out party started. But nothing as crazy happened. Instead, tonight’s madness came from the visuals playing on huge screens behind them, and the cast of actors dressed as different animals, religious figures, ninjas, etc that came out on the stage and acted out…um…skits? Not really. That would be giving them too much credit for having a script or concept. I turned to my friend Josh at one point and said, “I don’t get it.” And he replied, “I don’t think there’s anything to get.” Good point.

It didn’t matter much to me whether I “got” what was going on. It was fascinating, intriguing, bizarre and really fun to look at. Kevin was dressed in his usual flamboyance, but the guitar player had him beat tonight with feathers sprouting off him like a peacock. Like this:


Simply put, an Of Montreal show is unlike any other show you’ll see. I saw a couple security guys look at each other at one point, with looks of utter confusion on their faces. Like, “How the? What the? Who the?” But that’s just it. You should ask these questions, or at least you be thinking them, because that’s the point. They are a freak show, and that’s what makes them great.

That’s not to detract from the music, which I have to admit lost me a bit during my “Of Montreal is on my shit list” period. But they’re still a great band. Original to the core. It’s like seeing Bowie, Prince, Meatloaf, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Rocky Horror Picture show on acid. I’ve never taken acid (I promise, Mom), but I imagine this is what it would be like. Or what the flashbacks would be like. Or something. I mean, I’ve had fucked up, bizarre dreams that make more sense than what I was looking at.

There were Catholic cardinals dressed in red robes with actual cardinal beaks. A woman walking around on all fours with a 3-year old girl riding on her. Ninjas with glittered red faces. Dudes dressed like Buddha. Guys in weird gold masks. People dressed like pigs, and guy in a white suit and tiger mask…and so on.

But that’s the beauty of Of Montreal. I couldn’t see them every day. I couldn’t see them anytime. But I am glad I saw them during this 100 days, if no other reason than to be the wild card, fucked up, weirdest freak show of all the shows.

Of Montreal. That title most certainly belongs to you. You earned it